The Opioid Epidemic: What You Should Know - Delta Dental
opioid epidemic

The Opioid Epidemic: What You Should Know

February 15, 2018

In October 2017, President Trump declared a public health emergency to help address the growing opioid abuse in our country. Since then, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Department of Health and Human Services have committed millions of dollars to funding initiatives that address opioid abuse.

Every day more than 115 Americans die from unintentional opioid overdose. Our country only has 4 percent of the world’s population but has the highest percentage of overdose-related deaths in the world. That’s why the government and healthcare systems are actively working towards a solution. 

I recently sat down with our dental consultants to learn more about what we, as healthcare consumers, should know about the opioid epidemic. As licensed dentists, they offered the following advice: 

Know your pain management options

Opioids are just one pain management option. Opioids are strong narcotic medications which may be prescribed after surgery, severe injury or to manage chronic pain. They work by blocking pain receptors in your brain. Unfortunately, they also cause your brain to release dopamine, the “feel good” hormone. It’s this last piece that makes opioids so addictive. After prolonged use, your brain stops producing dopamine on its own and begins to rely on opioids to produce it.

Fortunately, the pain caused by most dental procedures usually doesn’t last more than a few days, and can often be managed with a non-opioid analgesic like ibuprofen and acetaminophen.

Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that works by blocking the production of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are the substances your brain releases in response to illness or injury. They cause pain, inflammation and swelling. Ibuprofen keeps your brain from producing prostaglandins which reduces the pain and swelling you feel after treatment. 

Unlike opioids, you may take NSAIDs shortly before your dental procedure to reduce the amount of prostaglandins that are initially released by your brain. This helps minimize the overall pain you experience.

Acetaminophen is another common pain relief medication. It is used to decrease fever and pain, but unlike ibuprofen, acetaminophen does not help relieve inflammation.

Always discuss pain management options with your dentist before taking any medication.

Share your family or personal health history

Opioid, or any, addiction is the result of psychological, sociological, and biological factors. If there’s a history of addiction in your family, let your dentist know. Research shows genetics play a key role in the development of addictions. Knowing your family history helps your dentist provide better care and pain management to you.

Additionally, if you have a personal history of addiction, let your dentist know. You worked hard to be healthy. Sharing your journey with your dentist helps them ensure you stay on the path to recovery.

Ask questions when you don’t understand

When your dentist discusses treatment and pain management with you, they may use words or phrases you don’t understand. Don’t be afraid to ask clarifying questions. Your dentist is there to help you make informed decisions about your health.

Want more tips?

Talk with your dentist to learn more about opioids and other pain management options for your dental procedures. 

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